Last night I was invited to see Sunset Blvd at the Wolverhampton Grand by The West Bromwich Operatic Society. The Andrew Lloyd Webber blockbuster musical has a sublime score and it tells the story of faded movie star Norma Desmond who is desperate to return to the big screen. She encounters struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis who is working incredibly hard to get published. After a series of manipulation, passion and madness, the show concludes dramatically with a tragic ending.
I reviewed West Bromwich Operatic Society’s production of Ghost earlier this year and I was astounded by the talent and Sunset Blvd maintained that opinion of the WBOS, it is a tough score and the musical numbers in the show are excecuted flawlessly. The ensemble numbers are strong and supported by huge amounts of energy which gave each number the power it needed.
Sarah Moors plays the role of Norma Desmond, a crazy-eyed and raving actress on the brink of a breakdown due to the diminish of her career. The role itself is particularly hard but Moors managed to maintain the emotional balance with the audience as they flicker between hating her and feeling sorry for her. Her overdramatic use of movement and melodrama portrayed the psychopathic character excellently and her tone suited the big numbers such as As If We Never Said Goodbye.
Leon Davies shines as screenwriter Joe Gillis, his performance is faultless and highly convincing. Each movement is sharp and every word he sings is compelling, his portrayal of the character is exceptional. Every aspect of the character is well researched and thought through as he depicts both the softer side and the manipulative side of Joe Gillis.
Olivia Jones stars as young script editor and Joe’s love interest Betty Schaefer. Jones captures the essence of Hollywood women, I was impressed by her use of voice which reflects the naivety and innocence of the role. She is poised yet shows glimpses of a fiery character, and her vocals are superb.
Tim Jones plays Max Von Mayerling, Norma Desmond’s servant and right hand man. His voice is powerful and packed with emotion and his understanding of the character is evident. The character grows throughout the musical and his story and feelings unravel to reveal a damaged man putting on a facade to protect Norma Desmond.
The highlight of the performance was the stunning duet between Joe and Betty who sing Too Much In Love To Care with poignant emotion and pristine harmonies.
There were few technical difficulties and a slight lack of fluidity in transitions, with merely a few more rehearsals the show could be much more polished.
Although I found the story itself quite erratic, the company brought energy and passion to create a thrilling take on the show, encapsulating the glamour and horror of old Hollywood.
Sunset Boulevard is on until Saturday the 12th of September and tickets can be found here.